Due to the gas crisis, the German parliament paved the way for the use of more coal-fired power plants to generate electricity. The purpose of this measure is to save and store gas. At the same time, parliamentarians decided late Thursday evening to facilitate state aid to energy companies in difficulty like Uniper. As an option, a pay-as-you-go system can also be created so that gas price increases for energy suppliers can be passed on more evenly to customers – replacing the rules that were possible until here. However, the German government wants to avoid having to use this instrument.
Amendments to the law passed by the Bundestag still have to go through the Bundesrat on Friday. They are a reaction to the sharp reduction in Russian gas supplies via the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline. In order to save gas, less gas must now be used to generate electricity. Instead, coal-fired power plants which are currently only available to a limited extent, which are about to be dismantled or which are in reserve should be used.
The Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology had already announced that it would also prepare the ministerial decree necessary to put the so-called gas replacement reserve into operation. “We will call on the gas replacement reserve as soon as the law comes into force,” announced Economy Minister Robert Habeck (Greens).
“It means – you have to be honest too – no more coal-fired power stations during a transition period. It’s bittersweet, but it is absolutely necessary in this situation to reduce gas consumption. We must and we will do whatever we can to store as much gasoline as possible in the summer and fall,” Habeck said. Gas storage facilities must be full by winter, he added. This is the top priority , he added.
Limiting Russian gas supplies via Nord Stream 1 has left Germany’s biggest importer of Russian natural gas, Uniper, in turmoil and calling for state aid. Negotiations are currently underway with the German government. The legal changes are intended to facilitate federal government intervention with energy suppliers. The problems in the gas market could get worse. Annual maintenance work on Nord Stream 1, which usually lasts ten days, begins on July 11. The big concern is that Russia will not reopen the gas valve after the maintenance.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz does not currently see Germany in a gas shortage situation, as he said Thursday evening on the ZDF program “Maybrit Illner”. He also said it was “not a foregone conclusion” that it would come to this. “It would simply be totally irresponsible not to consider this as a possibility and not to prepare for it,” the SPD politician stressed. In case that happens, he said, people are preparing for example for a priority distribution of energy.
The Federal Association of German Industry (BDI) welcomed the decisions of the Bundestag. The decision to temporarily remove the coal-fired power stations from the reserve came late, but it was the right one, BDI chairman Siegfried Russwurm told the German Press Agency. Government support for energy suppliers was also right, he added. “The German government has recognized the seriousness of the gas supply situation,” Russwurm said.
The German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA) also referred to important measures: “The triad of direct aid for gas suppliers in difficulty, preventive measures to reduce gas consumption and additional instruments for managing crisis is the right approach,” said VDA President Hildegard Müller.
The Bundestag rejected an amendment proposed by the CDU/CSU parliamentary group which aimed to extend the life of nuclear power plants. The CDU and CSU had proposed that the federal government could allow Germany’s three remaining nuclear power plants to continue operating by decree in addition to coal-fired power plants. The FDP had also recently advocated this – but the Free Democrats could not prevail against the SPD and the Greens in the coalition.